Tag Archives: yoga

A Mixed Week, And Headstand Progress

If I had to use one word to describe the past week, it’d be ‘inconsistent’. Not as far as my class attendance and practicing – for that I get an A for effort – but as far as my actual dancing. I’m not too worried, because by now I’ve noticed patterns and sometimes it does appear that I’m getting weaker or my dancing’ getting sloppier right before it gets better. And besides, if all my classes went super well and it was all compliments and not corrections i would start to feel like something’s off. I guess at this point in my training I need not-so-encouraging classes just as much as encouraging ones, to keep my perspective balanced.

The biggest inconsistency/disappointment this week had to do with extensions on releve. At home I’ve been doing the  Pointe Barre video (which is by far my favorite of all the youtube barre videos that I have tried, and it is really challenging. A year ago or so, when I first started to do youtube barre videos at home, I remember I was most comfortable with the Easy Barre video, and would have been so lost on this), where my favorite combination is the  adagio (developpe devant, plie, pique attitude derriere, plie, allonge, developpe a la seconde on releve, close, cambre, reverse this time developpe derriere, pique attitude devant). I actually rewind and do the combination 2 or 3 times, I love it that much. I love the fact that I can actually do this combination without feeling like I’m about to fall over, and it actually looks ok in my mirror, and I can’t help admiring my extension because it seems so unbelievable for me considering the less-than-mediocre extension capabilities I brought to ballet.

Anyway, during class we did a combination at the barre that was not similar but did involve an extension on releve. We were bringing our working foot up from coupe to passe on flat, then rising up to releve before extending a la seconde and holding it there, then back to passe and coupe derriere. For whatever reason my extension was absolutely terrible, I felt like I’d used up all my energy just going on releve. Which made no sense because I’d done the video class at home the day before and the developpe on releve had been fine. I think the part abot having to hold it out there may have had something to do with it? But either way I did feel off.

Center varied immensely from a day with only brand new beginners (we did tendus with basic port de bras, and then sautes and changements)to a day with crazy fast combinations that were close to impossible at my current level. At some point NS Teacher had us do 16 entrechats, and then we were supposed to start with the other leg in front and do 16 more and there was just no way. I don’t think I’ve ever even done one entrechat correctly, but I tried the combination anyway. It was pretty awful. The whole time I think I was doing it in half time, taking a small rest between each jump to charge up, not on purpose but because i just can’t jump that fast yet, not even with unbeaten jumps. I also wasn’t really able to fully cross on the beats, but at least my feet didn’t do some wierd flexing thing, I guess. Another combination that day was glissades with assemble battu. I’d never tried to beat my assembles, so I was unsure about how to go about it.  NS Teacher said we didn’t have to beat them, possibly noting my apprehension, but omitting the beat sort of threw off the timing.

At home, for center, I’ve finally gotten through the entire Classic Center video (except for grand allegro, because there’s just no room, I do my petit allegro and sautes on this rubber mat thing I have that I put on the carpet), being able to do all the combinations. The way I approached it was to repeat the exercises several times in each practice session, until I started to remember them (it also helps that she goes over the combination several times). Another thing that helped was that I’ve just been going up on releve retire instead of the pirouettes (so I can devote the energy spent to pirouette anxiety on remembering the combination instead).  The combination that I’d had the most difficuty remembering was the adagio, because there’s all the changes in facings and chasses and temps lies with port de bras, and honestly at first (and second, and third, and tenth…) glance those kinds of steps majorly confuse me and I have trouble remembering them until I’ve marked them many times.  I’d set the goal for myself that I wanted to get though the Classic Center video before my regular classes resumed for the Fall and I wouldn’t have much time to practice at home. I found it really fun to work on the same combination until I was able to remember it, and then actually feel like I’m dancing it, which is something that I don’t get much opportunity for during regular classes outside of the beginner level. I’m hoping this continued exposure to a more intermediate-ish kind of combination will help if/when I return to Intermediate class. I’ve also become really comfortable with promenades in attitude.

In non-ballet-related news, I have  leveled up on my headstand skills. I no longer need a doorway to walk my feet up to get into the headstand. I’d been practicing the doorwya method for the past few weeks, and finally this week I decided I felt brave enough to try it by myself (still against the wall though). I’m still not kicking up, just getting in the clasped hands and head between the arms position, and really pulling up with my core then lifting up one leg and pushing off a little but mostly just using my core. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared, but by the third or fourth day it was starting to feel very muscle memory-ish. My next goal is to be able to do it without a wall at all, but I imagine that one will take a little more time…

Also, i never got around to publishing my yoga session thoughts, and that is because it turned into a rambling mess, and I’m still not sure what I want to say on the topic (not to mention I’m torn with guilt because I get it that yoga is Good For You, but I just don’t feel as inspired to do it as I do ballet, and I hate that you-should-know-better feeling). But I do have to say that besides the headstand progress, yoga did help me improve my flexibility even more and even out the flexibility gap between my tighter and less tight side. I’ve noticed that my extensions on either side are becoming more or less comparable, although as far as strength goes I remain uneven.

 

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The Fear Of Falling Holds Me Back

While this post does have the ballet tie-in, somewhat, it is pretty tangential…

In the last couple of weeks of my beginner yoga course – which is now over as well as my summer ballet session – we started focusing more on inversions, which as it sounds, involved inverting the body. Which means the equally fascinating and terrifying concept of being upside down (as well as any time the heart is located above the head, according to Yoga Teacher). But it’s the truly upside down – like vertically – stuff that I’m mostly referring to.

In order to prepare for a headstand, Y Teacher had us practice interlocking our hands, placing our elbows the correct distance apart, and then lifting our hips up while pulling up with our backs and shoulders, feet still on the ground. So far so good. She has us practice the next step – do the above while facing away from a wall that is leg distance away, and then walk your feet up the wall. Still so far so good, and quite fun in that head-rush-y kind of way.

Then came the next step – do it facing the wall and basically end up in a headstand with your feet resting on the wall. :0 What?! There’s no in-between baby step…? She did say that none of us were required to try, and you could sit out, or do downward dog, or practice the previous step. Which I kind of wanted to do… but I had told myself that if this class provided the opportunity for me to learn once and for all the technique to being Upside Down, I was going to take it! Besides, pretty much everyone else in the class was going to try it, so I didn’t want to miss out. Y Teacher told us we could try getting up ourselves, or we could wait for her to come around and assist us.

I took the second option, and when she came around she said something like “this should be easy for you, you’re very strong”. I agreed  (that sounds awkward, but I wasn’t going to say ‘no, I’m weak’…) and told her it was a fear issue. She had me get into the practice position, lift up one of my legs as high as it could go, and sort of held it there as she guided my second leg up. And I was upside down – really upside down, not like any half way point, or just my head below the heart – and honestly it was so cool that as soon as i came back down I immediately couldn’t wait to do it again. Which Y Teacher cautioned against, something about doing a headstand repeatedly in one session dehydrating the body…and my upper back and triceps were pretty much done anyway. So the next day…

We did handstands instead. The extra length of the forearm makes it seem as though the floor is so far away and it was so scary. I wanted to get up into the pose, once again same reasons as before, but once I got up it was too much. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t find it as awesome as the headstand, but I’m willing to give it time, especially when I think of how slow my ballet progress was.

We did headstands another day, and still I couldn’t get up without Y Teacher’s help. I did attempt it though, except I was too scared to kick up into it, so I put one of my legs up and then tried to hop with my other leg. I don’t know how I though that was going to work, looking back, but at the time I guess I thought by getting one leg on the wall the next would follow. Except I would have had to kick my legs up harder, which I’m scared of doing.

I asked Y Teacher if there’s anything I can do since I can’t get up by myself. She said something like “you can’t, or you won’t?” and again mentioned that it’s not a strength issue. I again said, “but I’m scared…” and she mentioned some of the other poses I’ve been able to do which are hypothetically as scary and can lead to falling on ones face (she specifically mentioned this side plank pose in which you grab on to your top leg’s foot with your top hand and balance). I don’t remember what I said, other than I’m scared to kick up my legs and fall sideways, but she did show me this way to get up that involves a doorway and walking your feet up. I felt… empowered – while I’d loved getting into the headstand in class, I’d felt a little sad that I couldn’t get into the pose without assistance.

So of course I want to try at it home the next day. I found this nice wide doorway and set up to do it and… it’s still terrifying. I got up to the point where both my feet are high up, one on the opposite doorway, one high above me in the air, and I’m technically upside down, but not completely vertical, at a slant something like a seventy-five degree or so angle I’d say. And I start feeling a little panicky, because I have no idea what to do next. Boyfriend was nearby, and asked me “do you want me to help?”. I said yes, and he guided my feet, first the top one that had been so close and then the second one. I was happy to be upside down (at home!), but disappointed that I still couldn’t do it by myself…

I was determined to do it myself (with the doorway) in class the next time, under Y Teacher’s supervision. This time, I was able to identify when the problem began: when my first foot left contact with a surface, my second leg was afraid to follow unless the first foot found a foothold (which definitely made me think of ballet, as I’ll explain later). I made myself stay calm as I sought out the wall in front of me with the top foot. Once I found it, I lifted my second leg off the wall behind, and I almost felt like a snap together as my second leg joined the first. Things were well, until it came time consider getting down. In all the excitement I hadn’t even considered that part. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared (I have a history of being more afraid to get down or on the downhill part than climbing up or the uphill, for reason which I don’t know or understand yet).

For now I’m still getting up into a headstand by using a doorway. I figure I’ll look at it as how in ballet we depend on the barre when we’re beginners, and then once we’re stronger and more confident we don’t use the barre as much. Once I’m super confident with the walking up the doorway method I’ll try to kick up into the wall or use my core strength to bring up my legs, and then eventually work up to doing it wall-less. Once I’m more comfortable with the upside down part I’ll see about moving on to the handstand (and then other cool things that are not yoga but involve being upside down, like walking on my hands or a walkover (which also involves being able to sustain the bridge pose and push up out of it). Yes, I have not yet given up on my inner 8-year-old’s dream of doing a walkover. Perhaps I’ll never get there, but I have set a goal.)

As for the part where I was reminded of ballet, I think the fear of letting go of the floor I’m having here is related to my difficulties with cabrioles (and by extension, all beated jumps except for royalles). That feeling of one foot already being off the ground or unsupported, and then bringing up a second foot to meet it, it scares me. I mean, I can bring my legs together off the ground if the objective is to come down altogether, like in assembles, but for whatever reason it’s different here. My teacher’s expect me to try the cabrioles, even if not high off the ground (which makes it even more scary because now I feel like I’m more likely to land wrong), so that means they do consider me strong enough to do it. I wonder if they also feel that it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I don’t want to…?

(Which is a tough way of putting it, but in a way Y Teacher had a point? I mean, there wasn’t a physical reason why not, so I can see why someone would say ‘you don’t want to’, but at the same time, when you’re the person it’s happening to, and it sure feels like you can’t, it can be really hard to hear that the only thing getting in the way of you is You.)

Well, for now I’m going to continue working on conquering the fear of headstands, and hopefully that will lead to me feeling braver overall.

PS. I will probably write another yoga post about my experiences in the course in general at some point soon, as well as a summary of my summer ballet session

Summer Fun And Ballet

This post is somewhat  and undetailed, but having spent the weekend having some summertime fun – picnic-ing and swimming at the lake – I am tired.

Second week of my summertime ballet session! The week was fun – the level of the class is something like Beginner 2, more challenging than basic beginner level but definitely not intermediate (both regular Intermediate class, and that Beginner-Intermediate class session from last summer). Well, actually it’s a little difficult to narrow it down to which level it is. At barre we’re using port de bras for some exercises, some of us are working on releve a bit more, and in center we’re using the body facings instead of just facing front for tendus. At the same time, we haven’t worked on any turns and have hardly jumped. I’m hoping this coming week we will do more of that, since I don’t want to feel out of practice. I actually started freaking out the other day at home, thinking about how I hadn’t done any jumping at all in about a week, and I haven’t had time to go for a run or even a walk, so what if I lose all my stamina. My fears turned out to be groundless (I had a home practice session with plenty of jumps and I was fine), but still, I got myself all worked  up. Since it took me so long to build up the strength to jump through a whole saute combination without ending up with flexed feet, I’m pretty worried of losing it again.

About the tendus with facings that I mentioned, I was so glad that during my weeks of completely from class I did the Kathryn Morgan Easy Ballet Center, because it was very similar to it – tendus croisse devant, en face, efface (we did ecarte as well), and reversing it, all with port de bras. I felt super on the spot, especially after one of my classmates made it clear she was going to follow me, but it went pretty well even the reversing. I think the facing I’m least familiar with is efface, but I’m starting to become as comfortable with it as I am with the rest. This body facings thing was something else that took years for me to understand, but to be fair not all of my teachers have taught the body facings to the Beginner class.

Class at NS was also fun. There was not one, but two(!) couples taking class together, a fact that I immediately mentioned to Boyfriend when I got home, as a hint somewhat. He’s still not going for it.

Barre went slow and detailed, with lots of work on our plies and tendus. Then for center NS Teacher had the more beginner students work on passe releves and pique passe along the barre while some of us did a turning combination. It was pique turn x2, stepover/lame duck pique, pique turn x2, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat. It was pretty tricky – basically, from the second pique turn, momentum takes you all the way to a fourth position preparation for the pirouette. That part scared me a little. I wasn’t really trusting myself and making it a fluid motion, so I’m sure I looked far from graceful. But a couple of my pirouettes were ok, in the sense that I made it all the way around, but not great. I had a few definitely bad ones in there as well… As for the pique turns, they were ok, but by the end I noticed I was getting a little tired. I feel like that’s because I haven’t been working on single leg releve lately, so I’ve gotten weaker. Or perhaps I was just tired, since it was my second class of the day.

We also did the temps leve combination (saute passe, saute arabesque) which is always fun for me. We started from B+ with the saute passe instead of saute arabesque (which I’m more familiar with), which makes it seem like it’s more difficult. Once we start it becomes just muscle memory, but the start just feels like it would throw me off, as I watch the first group go. But I’ve noticed more advanced dancers do this thing where they kind of plie and spring off their supporting leg when they start a combination from B+, and  think maybe this could help get me in the habit of that?

I’m still doing my yoga session (4 days a week, 1.5 hour per day), and the results have been interesting. Throughout the first week I was thinking ‘yeah, this is ok, but I feel much more of a workout with pilates’. But then in the middle of this past week, something changed – while doing/attempting to do one of the poses, I realized that my shoulders could open up even more than I previously thought possible. In pilates it’s always like ‘engage your lats!’ or ‘relax the shoulders!’ (which seems a counterproductive cue for me, since my shoulders feel relaxed in  their slightly forward incorrect posture, and to bring them back and down I actually feel like I’m contracting a muscle, not relaxing it), but in yoga the instructor said to ‘open up our side chest’ and ‘lift the shoulders up and back’, which somehow did the trick. It’s like I discovered even more muscles that I didn’t know I had and it felt awesome! So I’m defintely becoming a bigger fan of yoga. Don’t see myself stopping pilates though.

My body imbalances from left to right have also become apparent to me while doing yoga. There’s poses that I find it much easier to do one one side than the other. There’s also poses that I can’t really do all the way (I feel like I should clarify that this class, just like my ballet classes, are based on a session system and get increasingly more difficult or challenging as the session goes on. Since we’re barely at the end of the second week, we’re not doing anything crazy challenging, or even headstands, yet), including one where you stand, cross one leg over the other, bend your supporting leg, and try to wrap the foot of your working leg around your supporting calf – sort of the anti-coupe (or at least that’s how I think of it, and it’s the final wrapping the foot around part that I can’t do).

We are going to get to handstands and headstands by the end of the session, and honestly I feel a little worried about that. The instructor really emphasizes safety, but still, when it’s something that’s completely new to me I hesitate to just trust my body. And for me, there’s something about being upside down – as a kid I was obsessed with it. but I could never do it,so I have this, like, mindset about it. This can be so hard to overcome sometimes, the idea that I’m doing  the same action so why would I expect a different result. But then, this past weekend at the park I was doing cartwheels wth Boyfriends nephews and nieces, having a great time, and I barely learned how to do a cartwheel a year and a half ago for the first time ever. I turned 33 this past week, and I’m so happy that at least I’m getting to experience at my age now what I never got to as a child.

And that paragraph just went on the biggest tangent ever.

 

Opposites Attract?

Considering my latest post was about how people learn at different speeds, I have a little story…

Yesterday, I looked up from my tablet to see Boyfriend do something that resembled a chaines turn from Modern, a single traveling turn, as he crossed the living room. I did a double take, but by then he was in the kitchen. “What was that? Did you just twirl across the living room?!” I asked, more incredulous than anything.

“Huh? Yeah, I guess I did,” he replied.

“Do it again!” I watched as he repeated the movement. Sure enough, it resembled the turns we’d done in Modern class, the ones that took most of us half the session to figure out. “How’d you learn to do that?!” I demanded.

He shrugged. Apparently one day he’d been walking forward at work, and had turned to the side to check on something while still walking, looked behind himself and figured that doing a complete 180 was more efficient than turning back the way he had in order to continue walking. “And besides, you’re always practicing ballet, so maybe I saw it there…”

So there you have it: not only does my Boyfriend have stronger and more flexible feet than me, he learns dance through osmosis as well. I guess opposites attract?

Last week, I started my ballet summer session with G Teacher who, if you’ve been reading along, you might remember that I took a couple of classes with a few months ago, but the time of class didn’t really fit into my schedule. This new session is at a slightly better time (meaning: after hitting the snooze button a couple of times, I ask myself “Do you really love ballet? Prove it!” and drag myself up to get ready for class). Officially it’s Beginner level, but I did notice when I took classes with this teacher before that the level does go a little higher than other teacher’s Beginner class. This is the class where we did those partner-assisted promenades that gave me the idea that I wanted to try partnering (which was a whole ‘nother story…).

We did plies with full port de bras, super long tendu combination facing the barre(en croix, but alternating side, slow tendus, slow tendus closing in plie, demi-point slide out to tendu, fondus a terre), then quicker tendu combination (three slower, then two faster). Then, after the first couple of days we went on to doing those tendu combinations with one hand on the barre. We also did a degage combination that went tendu devant, lift leg up so toes come off the ground, tendu down, close, repeat a la seconde, and derriere, then chasse devant, and reverse with chasse derriere this time.

Center work was mostly ballet walking, first with no arms then with port de bras. Then, to add extra challenge, we did ballet walks backward, which I’d never done in a class before but, since I have this habit of ballet walking front and back repeatedly in the kitchen at home while I wait for the stove timer to go off, it was actually in my muscle memory (yay!). We also did tendus a la seconde closing in fifth (or third for the more beginner students) with alternating legs. One day we did bourres all the way across our huge studio, twice. The dance studio at my regular school is about three times bigger than the studio at NS, even bigger than the stage we’ve performed on. So this is officially the farthest distance I’ve ever bourred across, and it was intense – if I was any weaker I would have thought my ankles would give out. Still fun and dance-y though, especially when adding port de bras.

I also went by New Studio for a couple of classes there this week. One of the classes was very barre-centered. My classmate was wearing pointe shoes, so NS Teacher had us do pre-pointe strengthening exercises after our regular plies and tendus. One I remember involved tendu to demi-point only, then bending the working leg and “forcing” the ankle over the anch (which my friend wearing the pointe shoes said was really challenging), en croix. Another exercise involved rising up without plies (eleve) 8 times and then holding the balance on releve, which once again, was not that challenging while wearing flat slippers.  I mean, it wasn’t easy but my classmate with the pointe shoes seemed to be doing a lot more work. It was a great opportunity to see how my balancing has improved so much though.

The other day at NS we  worked on fundamentals at the barre but also did a center pirouette combination (that went tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus, run off). Those landings on the en dehors pirouettes are still getting me, but I did land the en dedans one correctly. NS Teacher didn’t call out any corrections about my working/passe leg turning in, so hopefully I did alright.

Another thing I (re)started this week, in the name of cross training, is yoga. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you might remember that I wrote a post back almost 2 years ago – feels like yesterday – about the similarities (through beginner’s eyes) of some yoga poses and dance. (link, if you want to check it out: http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/getting-reacquainted-with-yoga-and-jogging/       )

I’m a yoga beginner, having previously just done yoga at home off of  videos (and video games) and my friend’s instruction, but my ballet training and pilates has helped me so much that I am keeping up quite well in a formal class. Of course, not with the remembering parts so much – I wouldn’t be able to tell you the names of most of the stuff we did –  but with the balancing, alignment, flexibility and stuff like that. Since I signed up for a full session of yoga as well as ballet for the summer, I’m hoping by the end I’ll be familiar enough with it to continue cross training at home.

So far, the biggest challenge has been that we work in a parallel, almost turned in, position (not actually turned in, but the instructor cues us to feel as though our thighs are rotating towards each other). And when we lay there in corpse pose at the end I have a hard time quieting my mind so instead I think of ballet choreography. Which is probably not what I’m supposed to be doing…

Fitness Goals Update 5

Another Fit Tuesday (get it? like Fat Tuesday, but Fit rather than Fat), time for another goals update!

Overall, my fitness goals are really coming along! This is what I’ve worked up to by now:

Cardio:

When I started running/jogging, about a month ago, all I could handle was jogging to the park and then doing one or maybe one and a half laps.  By now I’m up to running to the park plus 7 laps! Uninterrupted, as I’ve been doing my jumping all the way at the end of my run now.  I’m doing over 15 minutes of running without stopping, which is a huge deal for me. Hadn’t ran for that long since maybe P.E. class in jr. high, or maybe never.

Running is so fun once I get the rythm of it down. I find it incredibly relaxing.

Still, I haven’t been able to recreate the feeling after my first run, as I gasped for air with ragged breaths.  Besides increasing the duration of my run, I don’t know what else to do to get there again.  The way it is now, I feel a little tired, but like I could keep going given the right motivation – which could be as simple as the thought of something yummy. Homemade mashed potatoes, here I come!

After finishing up running comes jumping.  Rather than continuing to do wannabe-ballet jumps, I’ve been doing jumping jacks – both the regular kind and the kind where you touch the ground every time  your feet are in the “open” position, bringing your arms up when the legs close.  The main reason that I switched out the kinds of jumps was that I didn’t want to get into bad habits by doing “ballet jumps” but not being able to practice them correctly. Ever try pointing your feet in tennis shoes?!

I’ve been doing about 100 jumping jacks per workout session (5-6 days a week).  Afterwards I do little “gallops”, 4 sets of 8 on each side, alternating sides.  Although I keep telling myself that I have to work up to doing more sets, I’ve been stuck on 4 sets of 8 for over a week now; my legs just feel rubbery and exhausted by the time I’m nearing the end of my 4th set.

Today I also tried doing these sideways jump-gallops that I saw on a youtube exercise video.  Perhaps I was doing them wrong because they didn’t feel like much of a challenge…

And then I skipped home. Because skipping is fun – and the weird looks you get from others for being an adult skipper are classic! At least if I’m in a good mood…

Strength:

I’ve still been doing my slow lunges with my arms either in second or high fifth, to help me with my getting on and off the floor transitions.  Lately, I’ve noticed that after we do our leg-on-the-barre stretches and get on the floor to stretch some more, Teacher asks us to stand back up gracefully with no hands. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? If so, luckily, this time I will be ready!

Remember in my last update I said that I was going to start doing something for my abs, as Teacher said that  strong obliques are the key to stability during turns? Well, first I started doing that exercise where you lay on your back, spread your arms, put your legs up (straight), and then slowly lower them from side to side, making sure to not twist the upper body. Did about 10 of those to each side. Then I follow up with bicycle kicks, around fifty of them.  This was all I did for abs for the first few days – not bad – but then I started thinking of something better.

I found this thing called an Ab Wheel, which apparently Boyfriend and I purchased around the time of the Shakeweight and pull up bar, and then forgot about.  I thought ‘what the heck…’ and decided to give it a try.

The Ab Wheel!

The Ab Wheel! And it only cost about $5!

This thing works! My abs are now in a state of permanent soreness.  I’ve always heard that the abs can be worked out daily, so that’s what I’ve been doing. To use this thing you get on your knees (I use a pillow under them) and then grab on to the handles and roll away, using your abs to stabilize you and roll back in. I’ve been doing these “rolls” both straight out in front of me and at a sideways angle to work out the obliques.  For the first time in my life I’m seeing what looks like the beginnings of ab definition – and this is only after about a week.

After determining that Shakeweight is all but ineffective on me, I’ve instead been doing push ups.  I’m too weak from the upper body to do regular ones, so I do the modified, on-the-knees version.  After doing – more like attempting to do, by the end they’re looking not so good – about 20 or so I stop and the soreness lasts all day.  But in general my form is good; I make sure to not stick out my butt or let my stomach hang down.

Yoga has been going great! My flexibility appears to have increased, especially when it comes to my back.  I’ve found that I really enjoy the pose where you lay on your back and bring your legs up and over your head, resting your feet behind you.  I also like having my legs pointed straight into the air, trying to balance that way for as long as possible.  My legs have also been increasing in flexibility, and I’ve been practicing lifing my leg over my head – and keeping it held there with no hands for as long as possible.

Overall, I feel like I’m getting to be in great shape. I’ve noticed that walking uphill is no big deal now that my legs are stronger.  Hopefully soon my upper body will catch up, but I may have to look up more specific workouts for that. I’m sort of getting Boyfriend on the fitness bandwagon too, which is good. We both eat extremely healthy but that only takes you so far, as I’ve found out…

Fitness Goals Update 4

Next week I hope to be surrounded by noveling bliss (NaNoWriMo) so I’m planning ahead and doing my next fitness update today! I’m guessing things will get a bit more hectic.  Of course, I still plan on working on my fitness goals during the month, I just don’t know how much spare time I will have for writing about them.

Running/jogging/whatever you call it – really, what’s the difference? Speed? – has been going great.  By now I’ve worked up to about 10 minutes of jogging (all after my uphill walking warm up), but since I’m not getting as extremely winded as when I first started with 5  minutes, I’m thinking I may up the time this week. I  split my jog/run into two parts, one before my jumping and one after.

On the jumps, I’ve been jumping in sets of 64. 64 jumps (8 with feet together, 8 with feet apart (sort of like a la seconde), 8 more with feet together, 8 with feet opening and closing, repeat), then rest for about 20 seconds, then the next set and so on.  Immediately after I finish jumping I begin to jog again.  This last time, just on impulse, I started to gallop chasse across the field on the way home after I finished jogging. It was so fun,and boy did my thighs burn afterward.  If I hadn’t previously I’ve really learned to love that burn, the feeling of getting stronger.

My balletish lunges have been going well, making my thighs feel so much more muscular than before.  I think I have some visibly new muscles both in the front and back of my thighs, but specially the back – I’m bulging!  When I first started doing these I was only able to do sets of 3 or 4 – and remember, I could barely do them, and used the arms for leverage. That’s how weak my legs were.  Now I’ve worked up to several sets of 10, keeping my arms either in high fifth or a la seconde. I’ve definitely been feeling stronger during class, and my one-legged moves (like fondues) have seemed so much more controlled than before.  Improvement makes me feel happy, it’s nice to see results for hard work!

Been doing about 25-30 minutes of yoga 3 or 4 times a week.  I’ve noticed that I’ve felt stronger and more stable in the poses, and have been really focusing on feeling every part of my body being stretched.  It feels so relaxing, like an all-body treat. Been incorporating more poses (postures?) than include bearing weight on my arms as well.  My upper body goals haven’t been going anywhere still…

During my last ballet class, Teacher said that the obliques are responsdible for the body maintaining stability while turning.  I haven’t started yet, but I will be looking up some oblique-targeting exercises to do. image

Speaking of an all-body treat, remember Mr. Tennis Ball?  Just this past week I discovered that he’s not only good for sore feet. I’ve been laying on a towel on the floor, putting Mr. Tennis Ball under my extremely sore and tight back and just kind of rolling around on him.  Feels sooooo good, it reaches all the spots on my back that my hands won’t reach – not to mention my hands get tired – just thinking about it I want to get down there and roll around some more. Seriously, if you’ve got access to a cleanish tennis ball – or any tennis ball-sized semi-hard ball –  you’ve got to try it!  Best massage I’ve ever had, and best of all, it’s free!

Fitness Goals Update 3

Lots of progress to report!  I’m now six weeks into my commitment to work out to improve at ballet.  Six weeks is the magic number!

After my first few days of extreme soreness, I’ve been jogging/running pretty consistently, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. What’s pretty consistently? How about every single day for the past week (with the exception of wednesday, since I had morning class and all).  Every day, including weekends.  And the crazy part is that, after day three or so I totally began to enjoy it!

I know, my feelings toward running in the past could be summarized as “Avoid at all costs, unless you’re running for your life.” To be fair, the main reason I’ve disliked running is that I tend to suck at it. Or at least I did as I was growing up. This time around, I told myself that even if  I found it unpleasant I would give it a fair shot. Told myself that I’m doing it for the ballet improvements, so just suck it up and deal with it.  But after the initial shock to my body at being used in this way, I’m quickly finding something new to enjoy.  I love how when I first begin to run it  feels so freeing, so liberating, and it’s like a natural – instinctual yet forgotten – skill, but what I especially love is how as I start to get both more into it and more tired every other thought flies out of my mind. All that matters is the very next step.  Such intense concentration, I love it!  So different from walking; walking helps me think things out, running clears out the thoughts. Hard work but so relaxing in a way…similar to the reason why I love ballet…

What I’ve been doing is my usual walk but afterwards I go by the park. At the park I jog for a bit, then find a secluded (sometimes I get lucky and the park is completely empty) spot to practice my jumping.  The first day I just jumped a few times in sets of 32 jumps – it reminded me of how in class we do sautes in sets of 16 or 32.  Just as during sautes in class, I noticed that my first few jumps were strong but by the number 16 I was exhausted and it took every ounce of strength to  keep going.  But I forced myself to go on, and after resting for about a minute or so (or really, who knows?) did the 32 jumps again. And again.

There was no apparent improvement for the first several days. Then yesterday, as I began my first set of jumps, I felt  lighter somehow.  I went through my set of 32 somewhat effortlessly, surprising myself.  In fact, I kept going after 32 – now I realize that I should have committed to doing another set of 32- for 16 more jumps before I psyched myself out and stopped.  After that I did several more sets of 32 and at no point did I feel exhausted, or like my legs were getting weaker.  My heart rate was up, but for once I didn’t feel out of breath.

So this morning I went for it and jumped in sets of 64. And obviously I survived to tell – I feel so proud of myself!

Now, I didn’t work on any technical ballet things like having the feet turned out or the feet pointed.  My goal is mostly to get used to jumping so that in class I don’t become exhausted after only 5 jumps or so. I can’t wait to see if my sautes have improved on wednesday’s class(es).

Another drastic improvement has been my standing-up-to-getting-down transtitions.  As I mentioned in my update 2 weeks ago, I’ve been doing these really slooow lunges while keeping my arms out to second.  At the time of my last update I thought that i had improved but it’s nothing compared to the improvement by now.  Somewhere I read once that in order to see results from an exercise program it needs to be at least for 6 weeks.  They were not kidding – it’s, like, the time frame when improvement just increases drastically. My thighs feel so much stronger that before and my plies and grand plies are deeper than ever. Which is awesome since the point of all this was to improve at ballet. I’m also trying out keeping my arms in other ballet positions besides second while doing the super slow lunges.

I’m also still doing the theraband turnout exercises every day.  I want to say that my ability to maintain my turnout while plie-ing or releve-ing has increased but as for my turnout itself? It’s the same as it was when I first started ballet.

However, I still credit the theraband exercises for helping me find – and strengthen – all the hidden inner core muscles that help me feel stable when I releve.

Finding extra time in my schedule for a full yoga session more than once a week is a little bit more challenging than I thought.  But I’m still doing several poses – or is it postures, can’t remember – a day.  While this is enought to somewhat maintain my flexibility, I do wonder if I stretched or did yoga more would I become even more flexible?

My arms are not feeling – or looking – particularly more fit.  And on some level, I feel like it’s not as important. As long as my arms don’t get tired during port de bras I’m good. And yes, I know that it’s the back muscles (the lats, if I’m not mistaken) that hold up the arms in ballet, but somehow I think if the arms has no muscle and were just hanging there it be harder, like an extra load for the lats to bear.  I mean, I would love for my arms to look better, but with all the other things I have to do I don’t really see myself dedicating much more time than I already am to working them out.   In the meantime, I’m still doing the (probably inneffective) Shakeweight a few times a week. At least until something better occurs to me. Whatever.

Pull ups? What pull ups, lol, I’m still stuck at somewhere between no pull ups and 1.  Very disappointing, this is the only one of my fitness goals that is not showing progress at all.  I can’t understand why; 3 years ago I could do about 8-10 at a time and  I wasn’t lifting weights or working out. I did weigh a a couple (no more than 4) pounds less, which is now leg muscle, so I wonder if that’s the difference.  If so, I guess good-bye pull ups because I’d rather keep the leg muscle, but I’d love to have both.

Ever since I’ve been jogging/running, I’ve noticed that I’m absolutely ravenous.  Yesterday I had double breakfast and at night I just can’t stop eating! At first I thought it was just my emotional eating flaring up, but since there’s been absolutely no weight gain (no weight loss either, despite the extra calories burned) I think my body is just asking for more food. Like I’m burning through fuel at a faster rate or something.  Weird, it’s like a faster metabolism, something that I’m definitely not used to.

But I could get used to it!